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Voter Guide: Cloquet School Board

 

October 2, 2020

Karin Sabyan

Karin Sabyan

Background

I have a bachelor's degree in business as well as a certificate in Catholic School Administration from Loyola Marymount University. I have been in the education field for 18 years. From events, fundraising, classroom volunteer, PIE chair, kindergarten aide, PE teacher, coach, preschool teacher, director and currently as vice principal.

What made you decide to run for school board this year?

With everything going on in our world, sometimes it seems there's nothing we can do to make a difference. This is how I can help.

What do you think are the top two issues facing the school district and how would you go about tackling them?

In light of the pandemic, we have seen how difficult it can be to provide quality education to all of our students. This affects our most vulnerable students disproportionately. To make sure we are keeping our focus on our mission, "linking school and community to provide quality lifelong learning for all," we need to utilize our resources and work within our community to provide more consistent and reliable access to technology, and appropriate staffing and staff development. Those resources include our families, care providers and staff members. Your opinions matter. Data from surveys to families on their specific needs will give a more accurate picture of what will be most useful. We also need to continue to be proactive with plans to provide equitable and reliable access to technology, not only for our students, but also within our schools. This gives us the opportunity to reach out to our community partners to work together for solutions.

With hybrid and distance learning becoming a likely reality, we have to have plans in place to staff these additional needs. Then, as educational models change, provide relevant training for our educators so they have the tools they need to be successful.

Elaborate on something you think the school board has handled well over the past two years.

Having two daughters that have taken advantage of this option, I really appreciate our commitment to the opportunities we have available for our high school students to participate in Postsecondary Enrollment Opportunities. The program, which offers students transferable college credit, has recently added new options including more focus on the trades industry. This gives a large percentage of students the ability to explore their interests, gain experience and helps reduce the amount of postsecondary tuition.

The coronavirus has changed education in many ways. Are there things we can learn from the reaction to the pandemic even after it passes?

Transparency: Communication with the community is vital, regardless of a pandemic. Even when there isn't a clear plan, it is better to be transparent about issues instead of leaving possibilities to be assumed. This alleviates stress on families and builds trust.

Technology: Whether we like it or not, it is a current and future necessity. We need to continue to work towards consistent, functioning and accessible technology at all levels.

Flexibility: When things don't go as expected, we need to be able to acclimate to new and ever-changing realities. This requires flexibility from all stakeholders towards united outcomes.

Why should people vote for you?

I am passionate about education. We have the responsibility and opportunity to do the best we can with the resources available. With my extensive and multifaceted background experience in education in both the public and private sector, I would bring a unique and important perspective to the Cloquet School Board.

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Nate Sandman

Background

For the past 18 years I have worked for the Fond du Lac Band and my family has made Cloquet our home for the past 11 years. I earned my undergraduate and graduate degree in Education from the University of Minnesota Duluth. I am currently a Cloquet School Board Member.

What made you decide to run for school board this year?

I decided to run for re-election because I am invested in the success of the district and I believe I represent the entire community.

What do you think are the top two issues facing the school district and how would you go about tackling them?

The top issue is balancing the concerns on Covid to provide safe learning opportunities for the students in partnership with the community, families, administration and staff. This issue is fluid and the community has provided some great input on how to move forward with this current year. This is an issue that must be worked on together. I believe everyone needs to make sure the school and community do their part to curb the spread of Covid. While it is healthy to have public discourse on this topic, the district needs to continue to be creative in delivering safe learning environments that incorporates local and regional data. It is without a doubt, we all want some normalcy and together we can continue to strive for it.

The other concern I have is when this pandemic subsides and the CARES Act funding comes to an end. I am concerned that the State Aid will be reduced to districts and that the school board will need to make some difficult budget decisions. This concern will become clearer in the spring, but the district will need to continue to provide safe learning environments and the appropriate accommodations, regardless of our budget concerns.

Elaborate on something you think the school board has handled well over the past two years.

The school board handled the strategic plan well with the input from the community, staff, and board members. This plan will help the district make decisions over the next five to ten years. Some of the priorities include providing mental health support, expose students to professional building trades, and work to maintain small class sizes. I feel the school board hired a superintendent who has done an excellent job during these past two years.

The coronavirus has changed education in many ways. Are there things we can learn from the reaction to the pandemic even after it passes?

There are many lessons that the district can learn from this pandemic. This past spring the staff and students were able to adapt to distance learning. Prior to the pandemic there were discussions to find ways to implement some type of at-home learning with a timeline of one year, but the staff was able to transition in three days. Another lesson the district has learned over the past seven months is that our community is resilient and that we all want the best for our students. The decisions made around school have always been to safely reopen for everyone.

Why should people vote for you?

I believe the people should vote for me because I support quality educational opportunities and activities for our students. I support hiring quality staff for the district, while being fiscally responsible to the taxpayer. The community can count on me to represent their interest over the next four years.

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Ken Scarbrough

Background

Carolyn and I have raised a family and experienced the hope and concern that we and our schools were doing all we could to help our children succeed. As an educator for 40 years and Cloquet school superintendent for 13, this is the goal I have for our school district.

What made you decide to run for the school board this year?

I knew there were open spots on the board and wanted to serve our community in an area where I had some experience.

What are the top two issues facing our school district, and how would you go about tackling them?

Issues facing our schools will change, sometimes quickly, so how to tackle these issues is most important. I do not want to say, after a decision, "We did not have enough information." I will need to study information provided from the administration, gather information from other sources, and make sure to listen closely to those stakeholders affected by the decisions. Results of these decisions should be evaluated whether part of a strategic plan or smaller in scope. The district then can continue to improve its mission for our community and students. Two issues for these decision strategies follow.

The amount of good and bad information is exploding. We should help students evaluate and use that information in ways to help them and those they contact to be encouraged and grow in knowledge and strength of character. Our district does well with this, but we need to be diligent to change with new challenges.

Our curriculum needs to prepare students for consistently changing careers and career availability. For instance, not all good careers require two-year or four-year degrees. Our district needs to continue its good work in helping our students prepare and connect with these opportunities as well.

Elaborate on something you think the school board has handled well over the last two years.

Being on the school board is rewarding but can be a conflicting and tough job. Members want schools to provide students great opportunities, but budget restraints can conflict with that goal. That is why I am really happy the administration, vocational staff, and school board have worked on a plan, including grant dollars and already-budgeted line items, to make our vocational curriculum more integrated within their disciplines and more relevant to good career opportunities.

The coronavirus has changed education in many ways. Are there things we can learn from the reaction to the pandemic even after it passes?

-Students should be in school if possible. Socialization with peers and helping adults are important for learning and students' well-being.

-Schools, parents, and students should respond to all illnesses seriously by implementing the best practices we have had reinforced with Covid.

-Distance learning, while not the preferred learning method, can be used well. Perhaps with more planning and online access to more families, storm days or even sick days, can be counted as education days at home.

Why should people vote for you?

I will commit my school board term to serve the people in the Cloquet School District. We can collaborate with all our stakeholders to take advantage of our community's strength of diversity, kindness, hard work, and commitment to pre-K through adult education to accomplish great things.

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Chelsea (Siltanen) Stahlbusch

Background

I was born and raised in Cloquet. I have a AAS degree from FDLTCC. I worked for Miners Inc. for 18 years, the last five in Human Resources at the corporate office. I also work for RE/MAX Cloquet. My husband and I have four children.

What made you decide to run for school board this year?

To be an effective board member, working as a team collaborating with the other board members with the ultimate focus on our children.

What do you think are the top two issues facing the school district and how would you go about tackling them?

The allegations facing a teacher/coach: I would refer the4 case to an attorney and make sure both sides are taken very seriously. The safety of our children should be first and foremost.

The other concern would be the busing. I was concerned as I wasn't told my children's drop-off time until a few days before school. We still were unsure where our drop-off was until the day school started. I would support a dedicated person to communicate with all parents/guardians through an email confirmation or phone call.

Elaborate on something you think the school board has handled well over the past two years.

The summer lunch program has been very well organized, even during the spring of 2020. The delivery of all school lunches to our families was amazing.

The coronavirus has changed education in many ways. Are there things we can learn from the reaction to the pandemic even after it passes?

Absolutely. We all live and learn. I would suggest providing an iPad for all students to eliminate confusion of multiple packets sent home.

Why should people vote for you?

I will be your community voice with the focus on our children.

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Melissa (Siltanen) Juntunen

Background

I'm a lifelong resident and 1995 honors graduate with a teaching degree. I have substitute taught, worked as American Indian Ed grant coordinator and coached within the Cloquet district. I worked at Pinewood Learning Center and coached Special Olympics. My husband and I have two girls: at Churchill and in preschool.

What made you decide to run for school board this year?

I value education for the students. I also want the honesty, transparency and accountability to continue for the success between the school board, staff and families.

What do you think are the top two issues facing the school district and how would you go about tackling them?

One of the issues is dealing with the pandemic and assuring the safety of the students, families and community. I believe that the current school board members and staff are handling it the best that they can. This is all new to all of us.

Another current issue is encouraging community participation to promote more transparency within the district. I believe this is required to have a great working relationship between the community and schools.

Elaborate on something you think the school board has handled well over the past two years.

I feel that the school board has furthered technology for students, staff and families. By increasing the technolog, it has promoted better learning and communication between families and schools. With the use of emails and infinite campus, parents/guardians, staff and students can maintain relationships to improve academics and other needs. The path always has room for improvement.

The coronavirus has changed education in many ways. Are there things we can learn from the reaction to the pandemic even after it passes?

After the pandemic passes, the new way of life will be instilled upon everyone. All sterilizing and sanitizing will be continued. Hand washing and social distancing will be the new normal for a while longer. In the schools masks may still be worn. We do not know what is in the future.

Why should people vote for you?

People should vote for me because I am honest, open to opinions, trustworthy and will work until the task is complete. I always have an ear to listen. Let's do this together!

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Kelli Smith

Background

My background is mainly medical; I have an LPN degree but also worked as a health unit coordinator for St. Luke's. I now stay home raising my precious children. My oldest attends Churchill already and my younger two will follow in the coming years.

What made you decide to run for school board this year?

I have felt the void of not only a woman's voice on the board, but the voice of a mother as well. With three young children in the district, I have a vested interest in not only their education, but the education of their peers as well.

What do you think are the top two issues facing the school district and how would you go about tackling them?

Speaking as a parent, I really felt there were some communication gaps between the school district and the community, specifically revolving around reopening/distance learning plans. I'd love to be a part of bridging those gaps. Utilizing platforms such as Google Meet/Zoom for a virtual town hall would be something I'd be very interested in pursuing. This would allow parents and community members the ability to safely bring topics of concern up to school board members.

Another issue I have been hearing about is the perception of inequality between the two elementary schools. I do feel the perception needs to be addressed and again, I would urge parents/community members to attend virtual meetings to openly discuss any issues/concerns surrounding inequality.

Elaborate on something you think the school board has handled well over the past two years.

The selection of the new superintendent, Dr. Michael Cary, was well thought out. The board was able to gather input from all stakeholders, to include teachers, administrators, and members of the community to ensure the best possible candidate was selected.

The coronavirus has changed education in many ways. Are there things we can learn from the reaction to the pandemic even after it passes?

Nate Sandman

For me, Covid-19 really put into light how important quality education is. I think it also shed light on just how much goes into educating our children. Our schools are filled with a multitude of positions all focused on the same goal: to foster a love of learning. My appreciation for every single helping hand has grown tremendously over these past seven months. My hope is that we can all continue to give each other grace as we continue to educate our children in ways we never expected.

Why should people vote for you?

I'm very passionate about decisions that directly impact our children. I'm also sensitive to thoughts/fears/concerns surrounding education. I love Cloquet, and I'd be honored to represent my community on the school board.

 
 

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